It’s time for Ask Kotaku, the weekly feature in which Kotaku-ites deliberate on a single burning question. Then, we ask your take.
This week we Ask Kotaku: What’s your worst gaming habit?
My worst gaming habit is easily never finishing games. I’ve played a ton of games, but I’ve finished very few. There isn’t even a logic to it. Sometimes I’ll just drop a game and move on to another or something else entirely. I’ll intend to go back to my save, but then it withers away forgotten.
But other times, I’ll just burn it all down. I have deleted so, so many Pokémon saves with seven or eight badges just because I felt like it. Maybe I’m slightly unsatisfied with my party and want to start over rather than simply swapping Pokémon out. It’s other games too. Maybe I decide, 100 hours in, that I actually don’t like the farm map I chose in Stardew Valley. Maybe I actually want to replay Fallout, but this time I’m evil and then I realise I hate playing this way and want to delete the evidence.
It’s a compulsion. I cannot be stopped. This is a cry for help.
I have this problem where I just talk at whatever game I’m playing: yelling at the AI, snarking back at the dialogue, narrating my actions. To be fair, I have this problem with everything. It’s caused great confusion for roommates, who’ve often thought I had someone over when really I was just talking to a pet or the music I was playing or some furniture. (A past boyfriend and I actually had to devise a code word to indicate when I was talking to him versus just talking.) In video games, it often means people nearby think I’m playing an online game when I’m not. I’ve sometimes recorded video clips for work only to realise I forgot to turn my mic off and I’m just narrating aimlessly over them, rendering them useless. It’s especially troubling when I am playing an online game, as my chatter can confuse and annoy teammates. I’d like to say I’m working on it, but let’s be honest: Pandemic times have just made it worse, and now I’m pretty sure I’m doomed to mutter to myself forever, surrounded by people barking “what?!” with growing levels of annoyance.
Want to kill me in a shooter? Here’s a tip: Wait until I’ve taken out one of your teammates, then fire away. I have this horrible habit in shooting games where, whenever I get a kill, I’ll reload my weapon. No matter the game (first-person, third-person, competitive, cooperative, “cooperative”) or the circumstance (I’m surrounded by four other people), I’ll still do it. The habit has become compulsive, as second-nature as covering your nose when you sneeze or saying “That’s not my responsibility” a lot when you become an elected official.
This is especially egregious in Halo. That’s not to say it feels worse in the land of Master Chiefs — dying because of my own ingrained habits feels equally bad across the board — but because some Halo games make a special point to award “Reload This!” medals to those who kill others while reloading. I’m not sure how many I’ve earned over the years, but I’m positive I’ve helped others earn many off my folly.
Well shit, Riley stole mine. I have the exact same issue. I cannot play a game without doing my own running commentary. I might latch on to a side character, give them a voice, and spend hours either chatting with them or narrating the game as them. In Destiny 2 it’s gotten so bad that I can’t play without spending a half-hour with Devrim Kay in the European Dead Zone. I’ve made him an important part of the game in my head.
If it’s not a running in-character commentary, it’s making up words to the game’s music. This started way back in my late teens while playing Tiny Toon Adventures for the NES. “They’re tiny, they’re toony, they’re all a little looney, it’s Tiny Toon Adventures in which everyone goes QUACK!” I played a lot of Plucky Duck, what can I say. That’s the song I’d sing while playing. Just repeating it for hours. Maddening.
This is why I should stream more games on Twitch. It is also why I should never stream games on Twitch.
I have trouble resisting the urge to be a completist in many games, particularly open-world adventures or RPGs. Are there side-quests? Other folks will recommend skippin’ them, but me? Unless they’re obviously algorithmic or something I I gotta do ‘em. As a result I almost inevitably burn out mopping up all the piddly side crap before I even get 20% into the main plot. Thus I throw another game onto the “will probably never finish” pile. (Final Fantasy XV is currently close to succumbing to this fate. But you should see how many citizens I helped with their shopping!)
Let’s call that the micro level. On the macro level I sometimes get weird about an entire series of games, where I feel I must “see how it began” before moving on to later entries. That’s fine in theory — and really suits my general interest in game history and retro gaming — but consider that we all have access to more games than we’ll have time to play in 10 lifetimes. As a result I may never get around to playing that first game in any sort of timely fashion, while sequels start to pile up. Why haven’t I played Skyrim yet? Well you see, I gotta give Oblivion a shot first. It looks totally blandsville and I’m not excited for it but hey, I don’t make the rules. My brain does.
It’s not like an iron-clad thing. I can overcome it in specific cases, but this is the overall pattern I tend to experience. Games pile up around me and I know I’ll never really be able to dig out. I think this points toward needing to reassess how I think about all this stuff, but obviously I haven’t quite done all the homework there yet.
Put another way, I am the anti-Zack warned about in the holy books.
I have the same problem as Lisa Marie in that I never finish games but more than that, I don’t try enough to keep playing a game. I hate repeating content, so I will gleefully abandon a game because of minor inconveniences, even games that I traditionally enjoy. I haven’t gone back to my replay of Dragon Age because a bad attempt to mod it resulted in the loss of only an hour of gameplay. We’re talking Dragon Age y’all. I won’t play the game I love more than a lot of the flesh and blood people I know over the loss of one measly hour. It’s bad. There are exceptions — I have no idea how my non-content-repeating-arse got through Bloodborne of all games, and after struggling with Oddworld: Soulstorm I’ve reached the point in which I’m determined to finish the game, multiple restarts (and I do mean multiple) be damned.
Gosh it’s so hard to choose. The way I zone out during any opening cutscene in any game, and then get annoyed that I don’t know what’s going on? The way I find myself compulsively cutting grass in Zelda games instead of, you know, playing them? How I’ll spend the outrageous amount of money a console game costs on something new and exciting, and then just play the same roguelite I’ve played 800 times already instead?
But I think my real worst gaming habit is similar to Riley’s, only louder: shouting at them. Part of it is being on the other side of the reviewing process, the filter for crapness isn’t there, because I’m it. And part of it is I’m just generally an irritable person. My frustration comes out as bellows, cries of, “Oh you have to be kidding me!” and “Seriously?!” Then my wife will call up from downstairs, worried, “Are you OK?!” Which of course only makes me grumpier because I have to say, “Yes!” even though, no! No, this dumb-arse game just screwed me over and wasted my time!
I’m not a shouty person, otherwise. I don’t yell at people (apart from other drivers from within the safety of my car), preferring instead to grumble under my breath. But sheer exasperation in front of a game leads to outbursts. Ugly behaviour.
The dreadfulness of this has rather horribly been brought home to me by seeing the same behaviour reflected in my son. He’s six, and has learned from the worst, roaring his disapproval at a game’s letting him down. “Seriously?!” he shouts, exactly like I do. And goodness me, I feel ashamed. And my wife looks at me, and doesn’t say anything. And I shrink.
Wow, that got way too confessional. But then, it’s your fault for asking.
How About You?
Kotaku’s confessed, and it hasn’t been pretty. So what’s your vice? Have your say! We’ll be back next week to deliberate and debate on another nerdy issue. See you in the comments!